My unsung hero
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 23:02
In recent weeks, amongst the Baseball Hall of Fame fiasco, the Ray Lewis hoopla and the Oscar Pistorius case, people have discussed what exactly the term “Role Model” means. It brought back memories of when I was 4 years old.
I stood at the chain-link fence. In my sight, there was a baseball diamond and a man whom I aspired to be like.
I was always his biggest fan, whether he was crouching behind the plate catching pitches or taking ground balls in the middle of the infield.
Every time he hit a home run – which was only a couple times in his career – he would write on a baseball which park he hit it at so I could keep it as a novelty item.
He never made it to the major leagues, but he was a person I looked up to. It wasn’t just because of his on-field actions, but what he exemplified off the field.
That man was my father.
When he wasn’t spending time playing baseball in a local senior baseball league, he was working as an electrician – a job he had been doing since he was in his early teens – and being a father figure to my sisters and me.
From when I was born until today, he would come home with grease and ink on his uniform; he was the epitome of a blue-collar guy.
But no matter how tired he was, he found a way to teach me his love for the game of baseball. I admired his work ethic and everything he had done for us. He was the centerpiece of our family.
And then one day, the person who had been the strongest, most heroic figure in my life was no longer invincible.
It was March 2, 1996, and my mom stood still in the kitchen with the phone in her hand. Her eyes swelled up and tears began to pour out. I had no idea what was going on because I was so young, but from the constant sobs and loss for words, I knew something was wrong.
I had learned that my father was involved in an accident and was hospitalized. It was an electrical fire; the machine he was working on tripped and started a fire. He was seriously burned.
After he went through months of recovery, I didn’t know what to expect from him. He could have easily thrown in the towel and quit his job because of his traumatic dance with death.
But he went right back to work. He knew he had to in order to support his family.
Looking back on this event has shown me integrity holds more power than what a skill set or talent can provide.
That is something that seems to be lost in the minds of sports fans. Many times we have fallen victim to on-the-court talents a player possesses, but off-field actions don’t back up the image portrayed on the playing field.
We see athletes like Lance Armstrong, who overcame obstacles and won seven Tour de France titles but later was found lying about testing positive for performance enhancing drugs; Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee sprinter and one of the world’s best-known athletes who recently allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend; and Ray Lewis, whose legacy has been a mystery ever since he beat charges of the alleged murders of two people in Jan. 2000.
When do we stop using the terms “Role Model” and “Hero” to describe athletes?
What they do in competition is amazing. They possess the ability to excite a crowd and win cities a championship, but do we really know what kind of people they are?
What it comes down to: although the bright lights and championships look good on paper, there is still another side of athletes that we do not see and will never fully understand.
Integrity goes a long way; it is more valuable than a check with seven figures.